Monday, July 11, 2011


I apologise for not having written for a few days; I haven't had the chance to sit down and write. But I have a few minutes now, and many thoughts running through my head.

I spent the past few days in Manhattan; I arrived at the Port Authority last Thursday, and exited the bus to see the following...

Okay, I'll admit it. Manhattan is fun. There's a lot to do, and a lot to experience and explore. But from the exuberance and ostentation you are surrounded by in New York City, it is easy to forget that the rest of the world doesn't look like this. When you're caught up flashy lights, night clubs, and exotic foods, you wouldn't be able to tell that the world's forests are being demolished, that the climate is changing, that entire villages in Alaska are being moved as we speak because of land loss due to ice melting, that there will be a displacement and migration of hundreds of millions of people within the next few decades. Why wouldn't we be able to tell? We wouldn't be able to tell because the oldest parts of our brains are fixated on the near and short, spatially and temporally. And while we do know now the extent of the damage we've done, and the extent of the damage we should expect, and that our actions and the consequent reactions are what are responsible for this damage, we are not willing to accept this.

Why pick on New York City? Apart from the fact that it is where I was last, New York City represents the very foundation of the behaviour that has led to extreme ecological degradation. While to some New York City represents progress and prosperity, to others it represents greed for money and power, it represents domination of people and of the skies, and it represents a lack of concern for those who have been left behind because of this economy. Yet the image that it has created for itself is immense and immovable in our minds and culture - industrial, "free-market" capitalism will solve all ills (let's just give it a few more years...and a few more...and a few more...), banking and finance and insurance cannot be tinkered with, no matter how morally depraved they may be. But then what are we going to do about sea-level rise and coastal flooding? Are we just going to hope that we build massive barriers to keep the water out of Lower Manhattan (pages 108 and 109 in this Obama Administration report)? Will we continue to think that we need to dominate nature to live in it?

And so going to a one-acre rooftop farm called Brooklyn Grange (although it is in Queens) run by Ben Flanner and others, does give me hope.

It represents a step in a direction, a direction away from here. It represents a gathering of people not to talk about profit, but about community; it represents life, and not the destruction of it, it represents nourishment, and not continued extraction.

New York City is a home to the sort of economic mindset that makes us think of continued "free-market solutions" to climate change or to poverty (again, different manifestations of the same problems). What we've been trained to think is that climate and the environment must conform to the rules of free-market economics, that it is this economy first, then the environment, that this economy is more important than environment. Yet an economy is founded only within the context of an environment, be it local, be it regional, and be it in our minds. What we cannot mess with is our environment. What we must mess with, then, is the economy, this destructive and degrading economy. While carbon taxes or cap-and-trade represent a step, they are not the step. Let's have no illusions about this.

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